Until you’ve had it from the tap, don’t criticize Pabst Blue Ribbon, the woman behind the bar told me. As long as the keg lines are clean, it is a great-tasting beer.
I nodded in agreement.
“Where are all the fish?” I asked.
“We call it ‘Dead Lake’ around here,” she said with a straight face. Then she smiled and a little later she laughed. “Just kidding.”
Thinking back on our fishing trip about 10 years ago, I should have reported that bartender to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.
Some things you don’t joke about.
I really don’t mind not catching fish so long as I’m on a boat. Floating is a good enough vacation for me. But is it asking too much for a northern pike, maybe three or four walleyes and a half-dozen largemouth bass?
Every morning Brian and I went to the bait shop for worms and minnows. Then we quickly departed. We hightailed it to the other side of the lake. Brian was at the helm. He gunned the outboard, pushing it to its mechanical limits. I would nervously watch the quaking Evinrude at full throttle. It had acute tremors and was belching blue smoke. I’m sure one more RPM would have caused catastrophic failure. I could see it happening. The piston would be launched through the crankcase along with red-hot shrapnel.
We tore up the lake. Our wake would have capsized canoes and kayaks had there been any in our proximity. But the small boats had already vacated the area. It’s like going inside after you’ve heard thunder. You don’t wait for the lightning.
We shot under bridges and through canals, hell bent for the unfamiliar, hoping to drop anchor in some remote backwater where the fish were biting.
During our far-and-wide journeys we experienced much envy. Other people were catching fish. We saw good-sized bass being reeled in. The more successful anglers were using an orange crank bait that looked like a cheesy corn puff. We asked around about this orange lure – this super crank bait – but the people working in the taverns and tackle shops didn’t know what we were talking about. It was clear we weren’t Wisconsinites. Perhaps the orange lures were kept under the counter, available only to cronies.
We needed gas every morning. A few days into our stay, the guy at the marina neglected to put oil in with the gas when servicing our boat. The two-stroke engine seized. We couldn’t get it started. So we left it for the marina guy to fix. Brian and I fished from a nearby boat launch.
That’s when Brian hooked the muskellunge – the first big fish of the trip. He had this whopper belly-up on the pier. I was staring it in the eye.
“Get a net!” Brian hollered.
Since the boat was in the shop, being repaired, I brought all our fishing gear back to the place we were staying, way up the hill.
I told Brian the net was too far to fetch. I’d just grab this muskellunge around the neck and pull it up the launch ramp. But the big fish became enraged when I put my hands on it. It recoiled and bounced off the pier and back into the water and it spit out the hook.
“We’ll count that as a catch,” I told Brian.
Which brings me to the two life lessons learned on this adventure:
- Pabst Blue Ribbon is good from the tap so long as the lines are clean.
- Don’t be in such a hurry to fish the other side of the lake.